Hospice care is a service to support people by providing end-of-life care when the patient’s condition is considered terminal and the patient is no longer receiving curative treatment. A terminal diagnosis is defined as the patient having six months or less to live if the condition runs its normal course. The hospice team works with patients to manage pain and symptoms so that their remaining time may be spent in peace and dignity.
Dedicated to quality of life, hospice offers a support system of professional staff and volunteers who assist the patient and their family in meeting their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Hospice care stresses the importance of human needs that go beyond the physical care of the patient. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death; hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.
Hospice is a service, not a place. The hospice team comes to the patient’s home, whether that be in their private home, nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospice home, to provide this full umbrella of care. Covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies, the hospice benefit includes all medications, medical equipment, and services required to treat the terminal diagnosis.
Hospice is for people of all ages, not only the elderly – we work with babies who are born with conditions that will not allow them a full life to the very elderly, and everyone in between.
Hospice is for people with all diagnoses. While approximately 50% of hospice patients have some form of cancer, the other half have a wide variety of illnesses, including heart disease, lung disease, liver disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), dementia (including Alzheimer’s), and failure to thrive. Any condition to which the physician can state that in their best guess, this person has less than six months to live, would qualify for the care hospice provides.
Hospice patients do not need to be homebound. Unlike the Medicare requirements for home health services, there is no requirement that hospice patients be homebound. In fact, Ministry Home Care encourages patients to get out and enjoy life – hospice is about quality of life, and living each day to the fullest.
Hospice is for families as well as patients. A vital component of hospice care is the support and education given to the families and caregivers who are caring for the person who is living with the terminal illness. The staff work closely with all members of the patient’s circle, helping them understand what is happening, what they can expect moving forward, and empowering them to provide the care when the team is not present.
Hospice patients can be active and feeling good, and still receive the benefit. We encourage patients to access hospice care as soon as they’re told there is no longer a possibility of cure. Even though they may be feeling physically well, especially after difficult treatments are halted, there is great benefit in signing up for hospice care early, before physical symptoms take over. Early admission allows patients and family members the opportunity to work through the emotional, social, and spiritual matters in their lives, so they are prepared to cope with the tremendous changes that are ahead. Families become comfortable with and learn to trust the hospice team before those especially trying times, making the road easier to travel.
Patients can continue to receive hospice care if they live beyond 6 months. Even though the benefit is stated as 6 months, when patients live beyond the expected life span, they may continue to receive hospice services. The hospice team and the patient’s physician continually re-certify that hospice services are appropriate for the individual, and there is no end to the benefit if the patient continues to meet the criteria.
Hospice is available 24 hours per day/7 days per week. In the middle of the night or weekend, patients and families may call to talk with a hospice team member. If needed, the hospice staff member will come to the home to help with the care.
Hospice is provided by a full team of professionals and volunteers. The hospice team consists of many professionals—nurses, aides, social workers, therapists, chaplains, bereavement coordinators, and the medical director, as well as specially-trained volunteers, who all work together to support individuals and their families during their last months of life. The team works closely with the patient, their family, and the patient’s personal physician to develop an individualized plan of care that helps the patient meet their goals for living the last months of their life.
Grief support is provided to surviving family members for at least 13 months. The bereavement staff of the hospice team support the family members after the death for at least 13 months, helping the family through all those painful firsts – the first Thanksgiving, first holidays, first birthday, and first anniversary of the death. Through mailings, phone calls, and optional support groups and individual meetings, those who are grieving can access support along this road of transition.